Composting, Gardening, Gardening Year, Guest Posts, Pest Control, Watering

The garden is one of life’s little luxuries – a place for relaxing, socialising, sun-worshipping, and leisurely pursuits. A well-kept garden repays us exponentially in line with the effort we put into it, so it’s worth learning some tips that will keep your soil healthy and your garden thriving all year round.

feature soil

Depending on your local climate, there may be times of dormancy when we believe that our labour is done for the year – but often, these are the most important periods for maintaining the vitality of your garden when it springs back to life the following year.

Disease is the most common cause of failing garden patches, so identifying, treating, and eradicating is one of the essential skill sets of any gardener. Taking that into account, our seven tips for keeping your garden healthy will help you avoid disease, and ensure that your soil is brimming with life, nutrition, and potential so that your garden will look at its absolute best.

1. Examine new plants before you buy them

One of the most common causes of disease is contamination from the outside. So, the simplest way to limit infection is to prevent introducing it in the first place.

When you’ve chosen your plant at the garden center, loosen it from the pot so that you can inspect its roots – before you buy it. You don’t see this happening very often, but it should be common-place behavior.

Healthy roots appear as a network of white tendrils which are reaching through the soil and will probably have molded themselves into the shape of the pot. Unhealthy roots look dry and withered – if you can see more soil than root, then chances are you’ve got yourself an unhealthy plant. However, it might just be a young plant in a large pot, so loosen a little soil around the roots to get a better look. If the root network looks healthy, then buy. If they look papery and brown, then put the plant back, and do not plant it in your garden.

The more immediately visible signs of illness can be seen directly on the leaves, of course. Make sure there are no yellowing or dying leaves, and that the leaves have a consistent colour, without dots of brown.

2. Make sure that your compost is completely rotted

We all love to compost, I’m sure. It’s so much better than throwing your uneaten raw food in the garbage. But not all materials decompose at the same speed. Thorough composting requires high temperatures for extended periods to kill pathogens in the rotting matter, so infected plant debris could re-contaminate your soil if it hasn’t rotted down.

If in doubt, leave it a little longer. Make sure that there’s enough moisture in the pile, and wait until later in the season, when your compost is uniform, crumbly, and earth-like before you use it.

compost

3. Recognize bug damage

Although bug damage is often more of an aesthetic problem, nibbled leaves can provide a portal for viruses and bacteria to enter the plant. Some insects act as a conduit for viruses, spreading them from plant to plant. Aphids are the most common carriers.

As soon as you spot any insect damage, it’s time to act – spray with an approved insecticide immediately and treat the neighboring plants to ensure that you scupper the critters before they cause any permanent damage.

bug damage

4. Clean up during the autumn

Even if you live in a moderate climate, you should still tidy the garden in the autumn when leaves begin to die and drop to the ground. Diseases can gestate over the winter on dead leaves and garden debris and in return attack new leaves in the spring. Iris leaf spot, black spot on roses, and daylily leaf streak are diseases that could be significantly contained if dead leaves are cleared away over the dormant period.

Stems and foliage left over winter to maintain shape and interest during the cold months should be removed before new growth appears in the spring.

fall image

5. Fertilise your soil – with the correct fertiliser

Over-fertilising the earth can burn the roots of your plants and impair their ability to absorb moisture, making your plants susceptible to stress from drought, or from extremes of temperature. Plants that live in well-fertilised soil have stronger resistance to disease and will thrive.

Soil test kits are available at your local garden center, or through online retailers. Gauging the existing nutrient level of your soil will help you to ascertain the precise level of fertiliser required to keep your soil healthy and your plants in tip-top shape.

fertilize soil

6. Choose disease-resistant plant varieties

If you grow your plants from seed, look out for indications that they produce disease-resistant plants. You’re more likely to see resistance indications on fruit or veg seeds than on flowers, but wherever possible, aim for plants with biological resistance. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the plant won’t become infected, but they won’t succumb to disease like non-resistant varieties.

7. Water appropriately

Watering is one of the easiest things to get wrong. Underwatering causes bolting in root veg plants, and over-watering can cause mold and disease. Warm and moist is the most welcoming environment for pathogens, so be careful with your watering.

Your soil should never be arid, but neither should it be soggy and claggy. Your soil type will determine how often you need to water. Heavy clay soil retains moisture, while light, sandy soil dries out very quickly.

Recognizing your soil type is easy – take a handful of moist soil and squeeze it in your palm. If, when you release your palm, the soil has stuck together in a large, single clump which resembles clay, you have a heavy, clay soil. Heavy soils are rich in nutrition, but you shouldn’t over-water it. If, when you release your palm, the soil remains crumbly and falls apart, you have a light, sandy soil which will need additional fertilising and more frequent watering.

It’s generally best to avoid watering directly onto the leaves of the plant if at all possible, as leaf diseases can be exacerbated if left wet.

watering

So, there you have it. Seven tips that will help maintain the healthiest possible environment for your plants to thrive and to make your garden a place that you’ll enjoy for years to come. Happy gardening!

Andrea BoffoAndrea Boffo is CEO of PlusVoucherCode, a website that provides discount codes to save money on online purchases.

Composting, Flowers, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants, Primrose.co.uk, Watering, Wildlife

Rose

There is no doubt that roses are one of the most popular flowers to grow in Britain. In fact, so many are planted each year that if you set them out as a single row these plants would circle the equator! With the proper care and maintenance you can expect your rose to last for at least 20 years. However, many roses fail to thrive and a lot of that is due to improper planting and care. There are several elements to consider before attempting to plant a rose in your garden and this step-by-step guide should help you to navigate the pitfalls ensuring your rose is a success!

Planting

Planting Position 

Choosing the correct position for planting your rose is crucial. If it is not in a suitable spot it will not thrive. Plenty of sun is needed for your rose to grow, slight shade in the afternoon is good but not continuous shade. Your rose needs shelter from the cold winds. A nearby hedge or fence is good but should not be too close that it shades the bush. Your rose will need good drainage as it will not grow in waterlogged soil.

 Soil Conditions 

When planting your rose it is important that the soil is suitable. Ideally the soil should be medium loam, slightly acid with a PH of 6.0-6.5 and reasonably rich in plant foods and humus. Roses cannot thrive if the soil conditions are poor. Roses should be planted from Late October to March and the ground should not be waterlogged or frozen.

Preparing the Rose 

Cut off any leaves, hips or buds that may still be present. If the stems are shrivelled place all of the bush in water for several hours. Cut off any decayed or thin shoots before planting. Plunge roots into a bucket of water if they seem dry. It is crucial that the roots do not dry out before planting and make sure they remain covered until you are ready to set the bush in the planting hole. Cut back any long or damaged roots to about 30cm.

Planting the Rose 

Mark out planting stations to make sure your rose bush has enough space. There should be a distance of about a metre between each plant. When planting make sure that the bud union is about 2-3cm below the surface.

Caring and Maintenance

Mulching 

Roses benefit from having a layer of mulch on the soil surface around the plants as it reduces weeds, keeps soil moist in summer, improves soil structure, reduces black spots and some mulching material provides plant foods. Some suitable materials used for mulching include moist peat, shredded bark, well rotted manure, good garden compost and leaf mould. Prepare the soil surface for mulching by clearing away debris, dead leaves and weeds. Water the soil surface if it is dry. Spread a 5-7cm layer around the rose. Mulching reduces the need for watering and hoeing but does not replace the need for good feeding.

Watering 

Roses have a deep-rooting habit meaning that the watering of established plants is not crucial in some seasons. However, some roses need watering after a few days of dry weather. For example, newly planted roses, climbers growing against walls and roses planted in sandy soils. All roses will need plenty of water in a period of drought in spring and summer. When watering, use about 5 litres of water for each bush or standard rose and 15 litres for a climber.

Hoeing 

The main purpose of hoeing is to keep down weeds that are not smothered by mulching. Hoeing needs to be done frequently to make sure that the underground parts of the weeds are starved. Do not hoe any deeper than 2-3cm below the surface or the roots could be damaged.

Cutting 

Roses are perhaps the most popular flower for cutting and using as decoration. To make sure you don’t weaken the rose bush, do not take more than one third of the flowering stem with the flower. Cut just above an outward facing bud. Do not cut struggling or newly planted roses.  

Feeding 

Roses make heavy demands on plant food reserves in soil. If one or more vital elements run short your rose will not thrive. Feed your rose every year using a proprietary compound fertiliser containing nitrogen, phosphates and potash. You can use powder or granular fertiliser, liquid fertilisers or foliar feeding.

Deadheading 

It is important to regularly remove dead blooms. Remove the whole truss when the flowers have faded. Cut the stem just above the second or third leaf down. This will help the rose conserve energy.

 Pruning 

Roses do not produce shoots that increase in size steadily each year. Therefore, if they are not pruned the rose becomes a mass of live and dead wood. The purpose of pruning is to get rid of the dead wood each year and encourage the regular development of strong and healthy stems. For more details click here.

 

Callum, Garden Design, Gardening Year, How To, Planting, Ponds

Daffodils 2

Lawn

Britain’s climate allows us to grow the very best grass in the world so wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t make the most of this wonderful opportunity? Start by removing all the dead leaves, sticks and any other unwanted debris to give your lawn a chance to breathe. Then it’s time to get your rake out, dethatch the lawn and remove all the dead roots and grasses.This process will clear the way for watering, mowing and planting seeds. For larger areas you can seek a scarifier with a motor. The debris will still have to be raked up and removed. Now if you want your lawn to have the best drainage system then a good old fashioned forking wouldn’t go amiss. Simply push the fork into the lawn every 12 centimetres and wiggle it around to break the soil and reduce the compaction.

Lawn

Alternatively, if forking isn’t for you, an aerator can be used instead. This is a very simple tool that pushes into the lawn like a fork and will remove small plugs of soil which can then have lawn sand brushed into them. Your final step is to add lawn feed and place seeds wherever there are bare patches. I’m sure it goes without saying but it is vital you stay off your lawn as much as possible until your lawn has finished its growth period to give your grass the best chance to prosper.

Soil

Sadly your soil just isn’t the same as it was a half a year ago. Months of rain and numbing temperatures will inevitably take their toll. Now you’ll need to really show your ruthless characteristics at the start of this process. Give your beds a thorough cleaning, remove everything except for perennial plants. This will make it easier to maintain your soil and help you to determine what to plant this year.

Soil

The next step is to test your soil. Get a baseline of your soil’s PH by using a testing kit. Test several places in your garden as results can differ across different areas. The ideal P.H is between 6-6.5, if it’s below that then your plants will have a hard time absorbing nutrients. If the P.H is below the magical 6.5, then add some garden lime and use according to the packaging directions. It is unlikely it will be above this, but if it is then add some pure sufler to these alkaline areas or alternatively you can just plant alkaline loving flowers. Finally add an inch or 2 of compost, either homemade or purchased. I would recommend commercial compost as it has a finer texture than homemade, and then simply rake over the surface of soil to even it out across your bed.

Pond

Ponds provide a beautiful sense of sound, movement and reflection in the summer months which many of us like to exhibit to our close friends and families. If you ignore your pond however, then the urge to boast this potentially beautiful spectacle might disappear and regret will sink in. Now (unfortunately for some) it’s time to clean your pond and work that elbow grease. If your pond is murky with no sign of life, start by giving it a good clean. Bail out the water with a bucket and remove any plants, standing them in bowls of water in a shady spot. Scrape the sludge off the bottom of the pond with a spade, being careful not to damage the liner, then scrub the sides and floor with a stiff brush.

I would then recommend supplying yourself with a pond vacuum. This neat mechanism attaches to your hose. The water pressure creates a vacuum venturi effect which sucks up any dirt and debris, collecting in a reusable bag allowing the clean water to pass through. The brush attachment then has special rollers which glide easily over the pond bottom, gently removing the dirt whilst protecting pondlife and fish.

Pond

By following all of these steps your garden should have all the essentials to produce the frameworks for an aesthetically pleasing garden ready to show off to all your fellow friends and family. Happy gardening everyone!

 

Callum is currently on his placement year here at Primrose with his parents being huge garden enthusiasts.Callum

In the time he has free from his parents rambling on about the garden, he is being a typical university student experiencing life to the full and supporting his beloved Reading FC.

See all of Callum’s posts.

Bulbs, Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts, Herbs, How To, Planters, Planting, Plants

Often once it gets cold outside we stop gardening because it’s difficult to grow plants outside when the temperatures are low and the ground has frozen. Luckily you don’t need to just throw away gardening because you cannot do it outside, you can start an indoor garden and continue to get your gardening fix even in the dead of winter.

How to Grow Plants Indoors
Indoor gardening by definition is growing plants inside, whether it be in your house, some other building, a greenhouse, your basement or any other sheltered structure. This method of gardening usually is used to not only start plants earlier in the spring or extend their growth in the autumn, but also to grow your plants during the winter too. But any old indoor garden won’t do if you want to grow big, healthy plants, so that’s why I will give you some tips how to more successfully create and use an indoor garden.

1. Decide on the best place for your indoor garden

When you are thinking about setting up an indoor garden first you really need to think about where your garden will be. If you plan on creating the garden in your basement or in your garage you might want to think about some additional lighting for your garden. However if you situate your indoor garden in a room where there are big windows and plenty of light, or even set-up the garden on your windowsill, then you can get away with just the light that comes through the windows. Also when you’re choosing a place, think about how warm the room will be once the temperatures drop and how humid it will be in your planned indoor garden grow room, as too cold or too humid an environment will only stunt the growth of your plants.

2. Think about the growing medium of your indoor garden

Another important thing to think about once you have decided on where you will place your garden is in what growing medium you will plant your plants. You shouldn’t use soil found outside as it often is filled with different pests and weeds and doesn’t contain enough minerals to sustain the plants once they are indoors. That is why I recommend to either buy some kind of special potting soil or give your plants plenty of additional minerals, if you decide on using soil from outdoors.

3. Don’t forget to check on the plants regularly

When you are gardening outdoors often the plants get the minerals, the light and water they need from nature, but indoor gardening is a whole new ball game. You cannot forget to regularly check on your plants and see if they need more water, light or food (fertiliser). Often plants in different growing stages and in different conditions require different care so make sure that you keep up with what your plants need.

Quick tip: If you don’t want any pests to settle on your plants, rinse them under flowing water at least once a week, so the plant foliage is clean and you don’t have to use any pest control products to treat the plants.

4. Chose the right plants for your indoor garden

It is true that you can grow indoors virtually any plant as long as these plants don’t get too tall, as indoors you don’t have unlimited height. But there are certain plants that will grow better indoors. Plants that will thrive indoors are the ones that like warm environments and can grow even if there isn’t constant sunlight shining on them. For example tomatoes, beans, peas, any herbs like rosemary or peppermint, fruits like strawberries and grapes, and most flowers will be perfect for indoor growth. But this doesn’t mean that you cannot grow other plants in your indoor garden too. Just try it and if it doesn’t work out move on to next type of plant, because the beauty of gardening is trial and error and doing everything you possibly can to help your plants grow.

Benjamin ThortonBen Thorton is the owner and main editor of a website called www.t5fixtures.com. He is an avid gardening enthusiast and has many years of experience gardening indoors.

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